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Politics and Policy

#NVLEG Week 16: Time's A Tickin'

The Nevada Senate
Jana Sayson
KUNR Public Radio
The Nevada Senate

With little more than two weeks until the end of 2019’s legislative session, lawmakers in Carson City are beginning to work feverishly to put the final touches on hundreds of pieces of legislation. To break some of that down for us, I’m joined KUNR’s Political Reporter Paul Boger.

So, it’s been a couple of weeks since we last chatted about the session. Where are we in the process?

There are just two weeks left, and there is still a lot of work to do.

First and foremost, lawmakers have to fund the government for the next two years. They need to craft the budget. One of the big items still left to be decided is the education funding overhaul, but there’s also collective bargaining and a state employee pay raise on the table.

Second, there are also hundreds of bills still up in the air. The governor has signed a little less than 90 bills so far. And with another deadline coming up this week, lawmakers need to act quickly to take action on any measure not exempt from the deadlines.

But we did just pass another major deadline, right?

We absolutely did.

Friday marked the 2nd Committee House Passage and a little more than three dozen bills met their end.

Some of those bills included a measure that would have expanded the rights of tenants. There was also a plan to convert traffic citations to civil matters rather than criminal infractions. Lastly, I just wanted to mention AB153, a bill that would have made it a crime to negligently leave a firearm where a child could get at it.

However, instead of dwelling on the measure that dies, let’s look at some of the bills that made it in under the wire. That includes a measure that would prohibit the state from entering into any contract with a private prison within the next three years. In the meantime, it also requires state officials to inspect those sites twice annually.

There’s also a bill that would require law enforcement in Nevada to release data about how many people local law enforcement agencies are transferring to federal immigration officials and what local charges landed them in jail.

I think I should also mention that there’s a bill that looks to seal the records of anyone who committed an offense for a crime that has since been decriminalized. A similar measure was passed in 2017 that dealt specifically with marijuana convictions but was vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval. 

I want to go back to something you said a moment ago, and talk about that education funding overhaul. There seems to be a lot of controversy over that at this point.

I definitely don’t think you’re alone in that.

Let’s talk about the proposed new funding formula itself. Under the overhaul, the state would do away with the 52-year-old Nevada Plan and move to what’s called a weighted funding formula. In that plan, the state would come up with a new base “per-pupil” amount. That’s a sum of money each district will get based solely on enrollment. At this point, that amount has yet to be determined.

Now here is where the new plan is different than the old formula. Schools will get extra money for each student with a "special need," whether it’s [for] a disability, free or reduced-price meals, English language learners, gifted, [etc.]. For each of those students, districts get a little extra money. The current plan doesn’t appropriate money to help those students individually; instead, it goes to fund programming specifically.

At this point, though, it’s not clear what support this particular plan has. The state teachers union has already spoken out against it, and I’m willing to bet rural districts are also very likely concerned over this plan, but they may be voicing that concern behind closed doors.

That leads us to our other sticking point. Last week, lawmakers introduced a measure that would move the money collected from the sale of recreational pot from the state’s rainy day fund and into education. That’s an expected $120 million over the next biennium.

Under that proposal, schools would see a pretty decent-sized bump in annual per-pupil funding. That’s an increase of about $120 a year. The reason that’s an issue is under Governor Sisolak’s proposed budget, that money was already earmarked specifically to fund both school safety initiatives and to prop up the Millennium Scholarship.

And that’s just dealing with the school funding formula. We’re not even touching the three-percent teacher pay raise Democrats promised at the beginning of the session.

Okay, quickly, what can we expect to see [during] the last two weeks of the session?

To be honest, it’s going to be an incredibly busy two weeks.

There is still a lot of work left to be done, especially with this education funding overhaul looming over the legislature.

The next deadline is the May 24 deadline for passage of non-exempt bills from the second house, so we’ll see what comes of it.

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